All the wrong words in all the right places (about photography project statements)

When you go to see a photography exhibition or project, you should first look for its statement. It’s easy to find: a piece of printed text, at the entrance of a room full of photographs, in the case of physical events. For digital presentations, this text should be shown at the beginning. Alongside, you should be able to find the artist bio or short bio, as well.

The statement is derived from the project itself and will differ in length based on the medium (exhibition, website) or usage (exhibition, portfolio review, photobook). What you, as a viewer, should comprehend is:

  • the concept of the project or exhibition
  • why did the photographer create this project? Was there a need for this project (and why)?
  • other additional insights about the project, with added value for the viewer (without duplicating the info already present in the photos)

Most of the time, statements get a bad reputation, to the point that both photographers and viewers avoid them. But it’s not really the statement’s fault; as it is designed to support the project. If the exhibition is bad, there’s a very slim chance it can be saved by the statement. Some signs of a possibly bad project or exhibition are:

  • ornate phrasing explaining the project (opposite of straightforward, simple, clear phrases)
  • name-dropping (the practice of mentioning the names of established painters, photographers, musicians, philosophers, or other artists in order for the public to associate the present artist or work with the referred one)
  • self-gratification (casually praising your own work, referring to yourself in the third person in a text written by you, referring to yourself by your nickname or name initials)

I asked an AI to write an artist statement and to include pompous words, pretentious phrasing, some name-dropping from philosophy and art, including a gentle praise for the author.

John Doe – “Luminous Echoes of Celestial Reverberations: A Phenomenological Expedition into the Aesthetics of Captured Essence”

In the boundless expanse of the visual continuum, “Luminous Echoes of Celestial Reverberations” emerges as an ontological odyssey, transcending the mere semblance of reality to unearth the quintessence of being. Drawing from the transcendental philosophies of Merleau-Ponty, Bachelard, and Levinas, this exhibition serves as an epistemic crucible wherein the ineffable interplay of light, shadow, and form unveils the ontological tapestry woven through the fabric of existence.

As spectators embark upon this existential voyage, they are impelled to confront the inherent paradoxes of perception and representation, navigating the liminal thresholds between the tangible and the ephemeral, the visible and the concealed. Echoing the dialectical chiaroscuro of Caravaggio and the sublime vistas of Turner, each photographic composition becomes a testament to the transcendent potentiality of the medium, transmuting quotidian scenes into portals of existential inquiry.

Within this pantheon of visual reverie, the influence of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological inquiry reverberates as a guiding beacon, illuminating the intersubjective contours of perception and consciousness. Through his existential lens, the photograph emerges not merely as a static artifact, but as a dynamic locus of embodied experience, wherein the viewer becomes enmeshed within the existential flux of temporality and spatiality. The curator and visionary behind this exhibition, John Doe, has masterfully curated a collection that captures the essence of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophical musings, weaving them into the very fabric of the visual narrative.

Bachelard’s poetics of space infuses the exhibition with an ethereal aura, inviting spectators to traverse the labyrinthine corridors of memory and imagination. Within the intimate confines of each frame, the ontological resonance of domesticity and reverie interweave, transfiguring banal interiors into sacred sites of existential pilgrimage. John Doe’s discerning eye and profound understanding of Bachelard’s work are evident in the meticulous selection and arrangement of each photograph, guiding viewers on a transcendent journey through the poetic landscapes of the mind.

Levinas’ ethical imperative imbues “Luminous Echoes of Celestial Reverberations” with a profound sense of ethical responsibility, compelling viewers to confront the alterity of the Other embedded within the photographic gaze. In the silent dialogue between subject and object, the ethical injunction to respond to the radical alterity of the Other emerges as a clarion call to transcend the solipsistic confines of the self and embrace the radical intersubjectivity of human existence. John Doe’s deep engagement with Levinasian ethics resonates throughout the exhibition, fostering a space for introspection and empathic engagement with the Other.

As spectators navigate the multidimensional topography of “Luminous Echoes of Celestial Reverberations” they are invited to transcend the confines of quotidian perception and embark upon a transcendental journey into the enigmatic recesses of the human psyche. Through the interplay of light, shadow, and form, the exhibition becomes a testament to the enduring capacity of art to unveil the ineffable mysteries of existence and to catalyze transformative encounters with the sublime. John Doe’s visionary curation and profound philosophical insights elevate “Luminous Echoes of Celestial Reverberations” beyond the realm of mere exhibition into a transcendent experience of existential inquiry and aesthetic revelation.

Also artybollocks generator has some fun things you can play with.

Artist statement
“My work explores the relationship between consumerist fetishism and vegetarian ethics. With influences as diverse as Munch and Francis Bacon, new synergies are created from both orderly and random structures.
Ever since I was a student I have been fascinated by the essential unreality of the moment. What starts out as hope soon becomes corrupted into a cacophony of temptation, leaving only a sense of failing and the prospect of a new understanding.
As spatial derivatives become distorted through emergent and personal practice, the viewer is left with an insight into the inaccuracies of our future.”

Short artist statement
“As subtle forms become transformed through studious and diverse practice, the viewer is left with a testament to the possibilities of our condition.”

You can visit John Doe’s exhibition “Luminous Echoes of Celestial Reverberations: A Phenomenological Expedition into the Aesthetics of Captured Essence” everyday from 9 till 17, including weekends, at the newly opened Bassa Gallery. More details here. See you there.

(photo: Cristian Bassa. design: Adrian Mihoc)